By Justin Slick
Good environment art takes a lot of attention to detail. It's relatively easy slap a quick photo-sourced texture onto an object and call it done, but using this method is very rarely going to generate a satisfactory result.
Professional production work-flows don't always allow for hands on detailing of every surface in an image or frame, however a little bit of work can go a long way, and as high-poly to low-poly sculpting pipelines become more and streamlined, using software like Zbrush and Mudbox in production settings has slowly but surely become the norm.
Knowing how to efficiently sculpt various wood pieces (beams, planks, panels, etc) is massively important in game-art because they're one of the single most ubiquitous accent pieces used in environment design.
They're also relatively straightforward and incredibly re-usable, which makes them a perfect addition to your personal asset library.
So let's do it! In the remainder of the article, we'll take a look at how to approach a simple wood beam in Zbrush, from basemesh to brushes, texturing, and detailing.
For a wood piece like the one we're working on, the basemesh should be as simple as an elongated cube with even (square) subdivisions. It's important to think about how your basemesh will subdivide in Zbush so that there are no surprises (like insufficient resolution) when you begin sculpting or detailing.
Follow these steps to create the basemesh: